On Friday, April 24, Apple TV is launching a new crime thriller called Defending Jacob, which is based on the critically-acclaimed 2012 novel of the same name by William Landay. Here is what you need to know about the cast and the first three episodes, which are all being released on April 24. Subsequent episodes will be released weekly until the finale drops on May 29.
WARNING: The first header is about the cast and contains no spoilers; the second header is about the first couple of episodes and has some light spoilers.
The Defending Jacob Cast
Chris Evans headlines the series in his first foray into television since he became a big-name movie star (he did star in a short-lived series in 2000 called Opposite Sex). He told the 2020 Television Critics Association winter press tour that it was the strength of the material that drew him to Defending Jacob, in which he plays Andy Barber, a man whose son is accused of murder.
“I’m a little more mercurial by nature and I kind of take my time [choosing roles]. And so luckily it’s always felt like when I felt the impetus to work and a call to work, luckily there was a piece of material that fit my creative appetite,” said Evans, adding, “It was a project that I had read while I was working on something in New York and I just kinda kept coming back to it … [one of those[ projects that stick in your head for some reason. And my meetings with [the creators] were always so fantastic. Every time I left one of those meetings I was more encouraged, more excited. Eventually it just kind of felt like I had to do it.”
Michelle Dockery plays Evans’ wife, Laurie, and she said the same thing about the strength of the material.
“For me, it always starts with the writing, and I was hooked the minute I started reading these scripts and I was really drawn to … the story itself,’ said Dockery, adding, “What I loved so much about Defending Jacob is that actually, it becomes so much more about the characters. It’s not about the mystery of who did it so much as it’s a real kind of exploration into how would you respond as a parent.”
Andy and Laurie’s son, Jacob, is played by Jaeden Martell, whom viewers might recognize from Knives Out, which also starred Evans. But in a funny coincidence, that’s not the only project Evans and Martell have shared before Defending Jacob.
“My first ever project was me playing a younger Chris Evans in this movie called Playing It Cool,” Martell told the TCA audience. “And we never met on set, but we did Knives Out together in Boston and we talked about that a little bit. And then I was auditioning for Defending Jacob at the time and then at one point he came up to me and he’s like, ‘Are we doin’ this? Are you gonna be my son?’ And just a few months later we were doing Defending Jacob”
Evans, Dockery, and Martell are certainly the main cast members, but the supporting cast is full of heavy hitters as well — Cherry Jones (24, The Handmaid’s Tale), Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black), Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards), Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), and Patrick Fischler (Happy).
WARNING: Light spoilers below for the first few episodes; don’t keep reading if you don’t want to be spoiled.
The Premiere Episodes
In the first episode, a boy named Ben Rifkin is murdered in a park on the way to school. He was stabbed and his phone was missing. The authorities start to look at a registered sex offender who lives near the park, but there is chatter at school about how much Jacob and Ben didn’t get along. Someone starts sending Jacob’s father Andy screengrabs of social media messages where people are asking Jacob about the knife he has.
So at the end of the first episode, Andy searches Jacob’s room and finds a knife. In episode two, instead of turning it in to the authorities, Andy takes it blocks away and disposes of it in someone else’s garbage bin on pick-up day — because some part of him wonders if his son did it.
But in the flash-forward to 10 months from the time when Ben was murdered, a fellow district attorney questions Andy about the knife. It comes to light that he threw it away and he claims he was protecting his son from his own stupidity. But evidence begins to mount against Jacob.
Defending Jacob debuts its first three episodes Friday, April 24 on Apple TV.